With distortion cranked, synths warm, and no regard for the rules, Fastest Land Animal tap into the eternal power of three equally committed (and possibly crazed) kindred spirits. In this case, the trio— Screamin’ Jack Novak [vocals, guitar, synths] aka John Cusimano, Alfonse Castillo [guitar, bass] aka Jonny Blaze and Shark Samuels [drums] aka Andrew Meskin crash land (at full speed) into the intersection of glorious gutter punk, revved-up rock ‘n’ roll, and off-kilter pop. This slick, yet sharp style continues to captivate a growing fan base with nearly 10 million YouTube views and counting and acclaim from the likes of RIFF Magazine and more.
However, they only amplify every aspect of their vision on their 2023 second full-length LP, East Coast, West Coast, In Between.
“We aren’t a bunch of bots in A.I.-ville,” notes Jack. “We like playing in the same room together in front of a crowd more than anything. Our intention is to make energetic punk-funk-pop-rock that draws you back into the late seventies or early eighties. That’s really what we’re all about.”
As the story goes, these old friends logged time in previous bands, performing alongside everyone from Motley Crüe to Alice Cooper. However, the musicians bared their teeth with their self-titled debut, Fastest Land Animal, in 2021. They rallied around influences as diverse as Hüsker Dü, The Velvet Underground, David Bowie, Foo Fighters, Queens Of The Stone Age, Rage Against The Machine, and The Ramones in the cultivation of a singular vision. Arresting (and often hilarious) visuals reacted online as “Too Close To The Fire” and “Answer In My Head” each tallied 1 million-plus YouTube views. They parlayed this momentum into a prolific creative season despite the distance between them with Jack in New York, Alfonse in Arizona, and Shark in Texas. Beaming in Los Angeles-based producer Don Gilmore [Linkin Park, Avril Lavigne], the group tracked East Coast, West Coast, In Between via ZOOM. This time around, they increased the presence of analog synths, leaned on Gilmore’s impeccable tone selection, and even broke their own “no songs slower than 150BPM” rule.
“Don’s the director; he’s like our Francis Ford Coppola,” Jack states. “Without him, we wouldn’t have the sounds we do. He takes all of the parts, puts them together, and suggests where we should go. He sees the overall big picture, but he also brings an in-your-faceness to the music, which is his gift.”
“We tried to incorporate elements we don’t usually incorporate,” adds Shark. “It kept everything fresh, because we’re mixing in punk, modern pop, and electronics.”
The boys initially teased the album with “Out of Range” and “Cowboys In Nashville,” tallying millions of views on a pair of inventive lyric videos. Meanwhile, Fastest Land Animal also took The Police’s “Next To You” for a spin. A crunch-y head-nodding half-time bop underlines Jack’s wail as they replace the original’s guitar solo with wavy Moog synth.
“We’re big fans of The Police, but we didn’t want to do an obvious cover,” Jack says. “We felt like different audiences could dig it, whether it’s a metal crowd, punk crowd, or a pop crowd. It’s fast and rocking.”
Speaking of East Coast, West Coast, In Between, the album bursts to life on the opener “Run and Hide.” Its punchy riff soundtracks the story of “an outlaw who’s trying to run and hide from normal life and be a renegade—like James Bond without a mission.” Then, there’s “Getaway Car,” which speaks to escapist dream of every dude with a guitar and a dream. From the jump, Jack declares, “I’m a punk rocker I have a band.”
“This guy has to get up and go to work, but he smokes weed all day just to get through it,” Jack elaborates. “He’s in this punk band, and he wants to get in this getaway car and get the fuck out.”
“To me, it’s got this ‘Dani California’ vibe,” says Alfonse. “There’s a super pretty chorus we can all relate to.”
The dreamy “Mercy Kiss” slows down the pace without diminishing the power, unfurling as a bold ballad. The ride culminates with a bang on “Rubber Hits The Road.” Natural reverb from the piano echoes through a crystalline harmony before the chant, “I don’t know where to go. I can’t take it no more. I can’t walk out the door,” resounds emboldened by wild guitars.
“It’s about trying to escape from a life that doesn’t have meaning and isn’t working out for you,” Jack observes. “You don’t have anywhere to go, but you’re trying to get out.”
In the end, Fastest Land Animal make the perfect soundtrack to such an escape.
“The songs are energetic, so I love it when people feel that,” Shark leaves off. “We’re trying to amp you up.”
“When you hear us, I hope you go, ‘This reminds me of a time and place in my life and means something to me’,” Jack concludes. “Maybe you’ll want to see us live and have a good time, all the time.”